Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Charles Stotler

Second Advisor

Michelle Hanlon

Third Advisor

Charles Stotler

Relational Format



Breathable air, water, food, shelter, sleep: these are the five basic requirements for human survival. Providing these basics to a single person living on Earth is a challenge; providing them to 1,200 people living in the harsh Martian environment is a different matter entirely. Nonetheless, in 2047, SpaceX successfully constructed Valinor—the first human inhabited scientific settlement on Mars—by transporting hundreds of scientists and engineers, along with countless scientific experiments and technologically advanced survival equipment, to the red planet. Each year saw more successful missions to Valinor and the world community grew more excited about the reali-zation of humanity’s expansion into the cosmos. However, after 20 years of exciting scientific discoveries and over 350 billion dollars invested in its survival and sustainability, the scientific community of Valinor remained monetarily profitless. After the world economic crash of 2067, SpaceX was purchased by OnlyEarth Corp., a fossil fuel conglomerate that saw Valinor as a threat to its fiscal security. Over the next three years, OnlyEarth reduced its regular supply missions to Valinor, demanding the small settlement produce large quantities of Martian raw materials in exchange for fresh supplies from Earth. When Valinor refused to comply with these burdensome demands, OnlyEarth ended re-supply missions altogether in an attempt to coerce compliance from Valinor’s leadership. With the flow of corporate resources now stemmed, Valinor was forced to redesign the sociopolitical and legal structure of its 1,200+ inhabitants to ensure the settlement’s survival.

Employing the medium of science fiction as a tool for both entertainment and serious in-quiry, this paper utilizes 17th and 18th century English colonial history as a case study to contem-plate the potential future development of space law by a small extraplanetary settlement faced with the possibility of extinction. The present analysis will follow a three-chapter structure, aiming to explore potential futures by considering the past. The first chapter will examine the legal history of self-subsistent English colonies in North America and Australia, observing how these fledgling societies created new legal regimes by incorporating both their European legal heritage and novel concepts of law influenced by new and uniquely challenging environments. Chapter two will then present informed observations—based on the historical precedents set by previous colonial socie-ties—as to how a newly created Martian settlement might adapt its 21st century legal heritage to satisfy the needs of a community on the edge of oblivion, anticipating that such a community will likely reshape its inherited legal framework in the interest of its long-term survival. Finally, chapter three will analyze how a fragile interplanetary settlement like Valinor might defend its potentially novel (and likely controversial) actions under general international law, with special consideration for its potential exercise of self-determination.


LL.M. Law



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